December 20, 2012

NO, IT HAS 30 SHAREHOLDERS TO KEEP HAPPY:

Why is Gary Bettman trying to destroy the NHL? (Jonathan Mahler, December 20, 2012, Chicago Tribune)

Bettman wants to eliminate signing bonuses, cut the salary cap, increase time in the league required before free agency and set the maximum duration of contracts at five years. By one economist's estimate, these proposals would reduce the average player's wages by 15 percent to 20 percent.

This get-tough approach was no doubt inspired by Bettman's mentor, National Basketball Association Commissioner David Stern, who put a big dent in player compensation with last year's lockout and was never made to pay for betraying his fans: Even after shortening its regular season by 16 games, the league went on to set records for TV viewership.

The NHL, however, is not the NBA. It's a badly broken league, and much of the damage has been inflicted by its own commissioner. By pushing teams into unnatural markets -- ice hockey doesn't belong in Phoenix any more than beach volleyball belongs in Winnipeg -- Bettman created a huge financial gap between franchises that he's now trying to redress by taking money out of the players' pockets.

Instead of viewing his job as the custodian of a sport with a long and proud tradition -- the Stanley Cup has been around since the 19th century -- and a deeply devoted fan base, Bettman is acting like the chief executive of a restaurant chain who can't stop looking for new markets to exploit, regardless of whether there's demand for his product. This hasn't worked for the NHL any better than it worked for Krispy Kreme.

At least Krispy Kreme had an excuse: Publicly traded companies are under constant pressure to deliver increased revenue to satisfy impatient shareholders. As sacrilegious as it sounds, professional sports leagues don't have to keep growing to stay healthy.



Posted by at December 20, 2012 4:16 AM
  

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